Archive for the 'reading challenge' Category

Book Review: Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

A sweeping epic that covers about 3,000 miles, a large cast of characters, and 945 pages (!), Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove is a gripping and enjoyable read. Those 945 pages flew by for me! At times, reading Lonesome Dove felt like watching a movie. I actually missed my subway stop one morning because I was so engrossed in reading a particular scene, only looking up and realizing what had happened when my subway moved aboveground. Oops.

The story starts in Lonesome Dove, Texas, where former Texas Rangers Woodrow Call and Gus MsCrae have settled down, digging wells, shoeing horses, and generally living quiet lives. That all changes when an old friend of theirs comes into town, with the idea of driving cattle to the fresh, green pastures of Montana. We follow the outfit as they traverse miles of dangerous territory and try to keep from being killed (or killing each other).

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Book Review: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown

Surely revolutionary at the time that it was released, and even now, still an incredibly incisive look at how white American politics, backstabbing, greed, and genocide decimated the American Indian population, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is not a comfortable read. Wounded Knee is relentless in its documentation of the betrayals and battles suffered by the United States’ indigenous populations, from the Comanche to the Blackfeet to the Kiowa.

I often had to put this one down while reading, due to the sheer injustice and treachery suffered by literally every tribe of American Indian, even those who considered themselves allies of Washington and the Great Father (the U.S. President). This is the real history of the West, which was far from the empty plains the U.S government painted it as; Native Americans had rich, vibrant, established societies that were displaced and destroyed by Manifest Destiny and westward expansion of industrial and agricultural interests. Knowing how the story ends–with the systematic removal of American Indians to tiny, poorly-served reservations–doesn’t lessen the blow.

Wounded Knee also gives us a deeper look into the lives and motivations of prominent American Indians like Red Cloud, Mangas Coloradas, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull, all of whom consistently tried to serve and protect their people however they could, despite the overwhelming odds facing them. It was especially interesting to see the divisions between American Indian leaders like Red Cloud, who tried dealing with the U.S. through legal channels, and those like Crazy Horse, who chose guerrilla warfare and resistance. The photographs and illustrations of these brave men were a welcome addition to their stories.

While the ending to Wounded Knee feels rather abrupt, it is still probably one of the most complete investigations of American Indian history out there, and the choice on Brown’s part to end it with the Ghost Dance saga was especially haunting. Wounded Knee is a difficult but important read, and anyone who considers themselves a student of the history of the West or Native American history would do well to read it.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was on my to-read list for the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge, hosted by Roof Beam Reader!

Bookwanderer Rating: Four and a half out of five stars
Bookwanderer Tagline: “They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it.”
Other Reviews:  At Home with Books, A Variety of Words,

Book Review: The Best of Everything, by Rona Jaffe

It would be impossible to review The Best of Everything, by Rona Jaffe, in 2013 and not make mention of the television show Mad Men. Both are concerned with life in and around New York City in the ’50s (and ’60s and ’70s, for the show); both depict what life was like for working women before the feminist movement made gains in achieving equality; both are a masterful blend of gallows humor and real pathos. I think the two serve as comfortable companions for one another–especially if you would like to see more of Joan, Peggy, and Betty on the show.

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Book Review: Zoo City, by Lauren Beukes

I have waited a long time to read Lauren Beukes’ sophomore offering, Zoo City–it was one of my first TBR adds on Goodreads–and happily, I was not disappointed! In just a few words, Zoo City is a creative, unique, and un-put-downable entry in the urban paranormal/sci-fi thriller genre.

In a futuristic Johannesburg, South Africa, our protagonist Zinzi December is eking out a living by finding lost objects with her burden and companion Sloth by her side. Like hundreds of other people around the world, Zinzi is ‘animalled’–after an incident of wrong-doing and the ensuing guilt, an animal has appeared and has become physically and psychically linked to the offending human. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of order to the type of animal that becomes linked to each guilty person; there is a brief mention of someone in prison with a butterfly companion, for example.

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Book Review: Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger

Her Fearful Symmetry is Audrey Niffenger’s sophomore novel, following her popular take on the science fiction time travel trope, The Time Traveler’s Wife. To my mind, the two novels could not be more different–and unfortunately, Her Fearful Symmetry suffers for it. While both nicely and neatly integrate the supernatural, there is something decidedly unnatural about the choices her characters make.

Niffenegger’s attempt at a gothic novel concerns two sets of twins: Edie and Elsbeth, who have not spoken or seen one another in over a decade, and Edie’s children, Julia and Valentina. After Elsbeth’s death (not a spoiler, as it happens within the first few pages!), Edie and the twins discover that she has left her London flat to Julia and Valentina, with a few stipulations–the first being that they have to live there for a year before selling it, and the second that Edie and her husband Jack can never set foot inside. With that, Her Fearful Symmetry is off and running. We follow Julia and Valentina as they attempt to navigate a new country and culture, and not least of all their own identities, as twins and as separate individuals. Oh, and did I mention that Elsbeth’s flat is haunted, by Elsbeth herself? The reader is treated to Elsbeth’s slow realization of her death and her increasing powers as a spirit.

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Book Review: The Wild Iris, by Louise Gluck

Louise Gluck has quickly established herself as one of my favorite poets, if not my favorite of all time. Her poems are so lyrical and so dreamy that reading them is an incredibly soothing experience. If I had my way, I would have read The Wild Iris, her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, lying in a hammock in my parents’ backyard, drenched in summertime sun.  Still, even reading these poems on a crowded subway had me dreaming of flowers, August nights, and dark, rich soil. The power of her words is undeniable!

The Wild Iris consists of a set of poems written from the points-of-view of three narrators. One is a human, I assume Gluck herself. One is a series of flowers in her garden, from the rose to the witchgrass. And the third is an omniscient, omnipresent god-like force. Gluck doesn’t necessarily tell you this; it is only through reading and re-reading the poems in sequence that these narrative voices truly emerge. Each narrator has conflicted thoughts and feelings about the others, and the way in which they question, doubt, and supplicate one another.

There are lots of repeating images and themes here, from death and rebirth to identity to the responsibilities of a creator to his creations. The flower-based poems, for example, both fear death and recognize that death is not the end; their seeds will spread and spring will come for them once more. They also call out feelingly for their gardeners’ help to survive, a sentiment echoed in the poems narrated by humans and addressed to a divine force. I read somewhere that Gluck often introduces elements from the Bible, and some of those stories seem to be present here as well, when the god-narrator speaks (sometimes exasperatedly!) about the needs and fears of his inventions. While I’m not particularly religious, I did enjoy how simultaneously accessible and alien Gluck’s god sounded.

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Teaser Tuesday (Apr 20)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week is from West with the Night, byBeryl Markham. It is awesome. (It’s also my final book for the Women Unbound Challenge.)

The tease:

We were leaving the scene of our mutual discouragement when Arab Kosky’s curiousity overcame his natural caution. He bent down in front of the dark hole and the warthog came out. It was more like an explosion than an attack by a wild pig.

What’s your teaser? 🙂

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